June 14th, 2010

How to make Culinary Foams, Air and Espumas

Espuma is the Spanish word for foam or froth and is the descriptive word for a technique developed by Ferran Adrià.

A culinary foam consists of natural flavours such as fruit juices or vegetable purees, soup and stock bases mixed with gelling or stabilising agents such as lecithin, gelatine or natural fats in cream and other dairy produce .This is achieved by the introduction of air by using either a mechanical technique of whipping the fluids with either a hand held immersion blender or extruded through a cream whipper using N2O cartridges.

This technique is not new to us and has been used for many generations such as the making of cappuccinos and the old childhood favourite  for adding a topping to an Ice-cream Sunday. Adrià has taken this 1970′s technique and equipment, refined the philosophy and used the science behind it all to develop the more commonly used culinary foams, airs and espumas that we all know these days.

In the ‘90s, when Ferran Adrià developed this technique it took the culinary world by storm and and it was considered avant-garde at that time. Then foams were used in the white-tablecloth establishments around the world and became totally over used.However who cares if foams are so ‘yesterday’ in the restaurant world? I still love the technique and think it’s definitely one to retain. It shows that the culinary world is turning and we are not all stuck in obeying the classic French school of cooking . I class it as a cookery technique developed and learnt in my cookery era and I’m proud of it and shall celebrate it for as long as I can.

The benefits of this technique is that when you incorporate air mechanically, in a fierce manner, into a very intense and strong flavoured sauce  you expand the flavour so it becomes light and sumptuous and the volume doubles.

As briefly explained before there are two kinds of foams. I  differentiate the two as follows:

  1. The one that I refer to as a foam or cappuccino is made with a hand held immersion blender creating a wispy foam,
  2. The other foam,  espuma or air ,is created by a cream whipper, also known as a siphon, using N2O cartridges to incorporate the air which creates a  dense mousse type foam.

Which foam to use  and when is a matter of personal preference. To create the perfect foam or air it is important that you have a understanding of how to achieve this and I have listed a few facts that should set you on your way.

Espuma and Foaming facts:

  • The liquid or puree must be thick and or dense enough to hold its shape.
  • For the foam to hold its shape for a period of time there must be some form of thickening or gelling agent present in the liquid.
  • Thickening and gelling agents are: gelatine, lecithin, agar and natural fats such as butter, cream and other dairy produce
  • For hot foams the best thickeners are fat or starch; this could be found in butter, cream or milk. It’s also important to make sure that the liquid is not too hot, the perfect temperature is between 5o°C and 65°C. Place the cream whipper in a bain-marie filled with hot water; do not keep for longer than 2 hours.
  • Cold foams also require fat to stabilise the shape but if you make dairy free foam you can use gelatine with dense liquid or purees, to stabilise the foam. All depends on what  you are making but I normally use 1 leaf of gelatine to 250ml of dense liquid. If your choice is dairy you can add fat by adding yoghurt, crème fraîche or cream.
  • There are two different gasses available to charge the cream whipper . Standard gas bulbs that will give you the foaming characteristics are Nitrous oxide (N2O) .
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is also available and will give the liquid a fizzy texture commonly found in fizzy drinks. Select your gas carefully to give you the desired end result. If you would like to experiment with making fizzy soda drinks I recommend that you should investigate the Soda Siphons bottles.

British Larder Recipes Creating Foams

14 Comments to “How to make Culinary Foams, Air and Espumas”

  1. Rita says:

    Madalene; very informative and brilliant!

  2. Chef Hermes says:

    After reading an article on an american website (we think), we did fizzy strawberries withour IsI gun.

    Top the strawberries and pop into the IsI espuma gun, put the lid on & charge with CO2 gas (1 for 0.5L & 2 for 1L) leave in a fridge for 3-4 hours.
    When ready, discharge the gas, leave for 20-30 mins then consume.

    Et Viola – fizzy strawberries :-)

  3. Thermomixer says:

    Thanks Madalene. I still love the use of foams etc. They are great for creating chocolate h”honeycomb” and airy icecreams.

    Have you used gellan gum or carrageen for thickening?

    I know Andoni Luis Aduriz at mugaritz has done a lot of work trying to get stable foams and uses egg white powder in his foams like for the bar of soap dessert and this one:

    http://www.starchefs.com/chefs/andoni_luis_aduriz/html/recipe_Chocolat_Bubbles_Andoni_Luis_Aduriz.shtml

    Thanks again for your writings – very much appreciated.

  4. Brilliant post, I recently made my first espuma (raspberry) and I really liked it. I’ve had a cream whipper for ages but I had never tried my hand at espumas. I will definitely do it again.

  5. Jo Mountain says:

    Thank you so much for this Madalene, I have had my siphon for so long and have been afraid to use it. You have made it sound so simple I will get it our straight away and have a go. Thank you Jo

  6. Madalene says:

    Hi Joe,

    Unfortunately you cannot use a soda syphon bottle to make culinary foams as the head is not the correct shape, and the mechanics function slightly differently.

    Happy Cooking,
    Madalene

  7. Joe says:

    Hi Can i use a Soda Syphon for these recipes?

  8. greedydave says:

    Thanks so much, Madalene.

    I completely agree with you that foams and espumas should stick around. They add so much interest and an awful lot of fun to a dish. I’m bookmarking this post for some future messings-about in my own kitchen!

    Interestingly, Guinness casks are charged with a mixture of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. It’s only now that I appreciate why.

    Dave

  9. thanks for the great information!

  10. [...] How to make Culinary Foams, Air and Espumas [...]

  11. Grashopa says:

    Lime Air
    225g Lime juice
    275g Water
    1.5g Lecite

    Combine the three ingredients and use a hand-held mixer on the surface of the liquid.

    Allow to stabilize for one minute and collect the air that has formed on top

    also

    Frozen Parmesan Air

    500g Grated Parmesan
    450ml Water
    3g Texturas Lecite*

    Gently bring the parmesan and water to 80°C and allow to steep for at least 30 mins.

    Remove and strain the steeped liquid and add the Lecite.

    Whisk with stick blender and harvest the air that forms on the surface into an air tight plastic container with lid. Repeat this process as more air will continue to form.

    Cover and freeze for at least 12 hours.

    Remove from the freezer and serve as required.

    Ingredients and more recipes @ http://www.infusions4chefs.co.uk

  12. Madalene says:

    HI Jimbo,
    1 L is my choice. The .5 L is too small remember you cannot fill it all the way, fill 3/4 only.

    Happy Cooking
    Madalene

  13. Jimbo says:

    Hey,

    I have been planning to get a whipper for a while now and i just cannot decide whether i need the 0.5L or the 1L model of the iSi Gourment Pro.

    I need to make enough Espuma to cater for 12/14 people as a starter (similar in individual quantity to the celeriac puree that you have a recipe for, so about a mug full per person)

    Which size would you recommend?

  14. rich miller says:

    am trying to make a chocolate orange foam. that has stability for 2 hours after piping out as leaving it at room temperature sinks & fridge sets too hard . any ideas

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